hands holding

Patients with lower amounts of social support were found to have worsening health status or depressive symptoms following the first year of acute myocardial infraction — also known as a heart attack — according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. In an effort to help ensure that patients who have survived a heart attack do not have a repeat occurrence, a Loma Linda University International Heart Institute cardiovascular disease specialist offers tips on how to support a friend or loved on post-heart attack.

Tahmeed A. Contractor, MD, a cardiovascular disease specialist, says that he has seen some patients suffer through recovery without support and end up back in a room at the Loma Linda University Medical Center.

“A heart attack is a major life event,” Contractor says. “Knowing how to navigate life after it is a tremendous task that requires support from a friend or a loved one to aid in rehabilitation.”

Contractor says if you or someone you know needs help knowing how to support a patient, these are his top three takeaways.

  1. Provide emotional support. It can be an emotional burden on a patient to go through a major life event. That patient had to go through the suffering of having an acute heart attack, some may undergo open heart surgery or a stinting procedure and then become hospitalized for two or three days. For some patients, this is their first hospital stay, and having a sympathetic comforter is very important.
  2. Engage with them about medication. After a heart attack, there are many necessary medications, and the patient may not have access to resources to obtain them. Contractor says it is essential that the patient’s support system makes sure the patient has the resources to get those medications at the time of discharge. He advises the supporter to talk with a case manager before leaving the hospital and to have ongoing discussions with the patient’s cardiologist during follow-up appointments to ensure accessibility. Lastly, check in often to make sure the patient hasn’t quit the medications.
  3. Partner with them in lifestyle change. A patient’s lifestyle has to change because something was not right before, Contractor says. Making a change with that patient such as quitting smoking, changing diet, incorporating exercise and managing stress, can encourage the patient through example. It’s discouraging if the patient’s support system is engaging in habits that can lead them into a possible second heart attack. Be the example for the patient. 

Loma Linda University International Heart Institute wants to partner with you in being the best support for your friend or loved one recovering from a heart attack. Cardiologist are happy to assist in making sure a patient is on the right track. If smoking is a problem there is a smoking cessastion program to help. With any assistance in cardiac rehabilitation, the cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program provides specialist that can provide information on support, nutrition, stress, exercise and much more. To learn more about any of these resources visit their website for more information or call 1-888-468-5432.